The U.S. Department of Interior is requesting $2 million in 2009 to initiate a National Land Imaging Program that would be managed by the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS.

The USGS is responsible for operating the nation’s Landsat satellites, but the money and expertise required to build them reside at NASA. The nation’s next Landsat satellite, slated to launch in 2011, is being developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., was tapped last year to build the spacecraft’s main instrument. The spacecraft bus remains out for bid.

Under a White House plan issued in August 2007, the Department of Interior will assume leadership for the U.S.

civil operational land imaging efforts in concert with other national

government agencies that use the data.

Bruce Quirk, the Land Remote Sensing Program coordinator at the USGS, told Space News that the $2 million proposed for 2009 would be used

to begin technical studies and plans for future land imaging systems and to begin to acquire land imaging data from non-U.S. and commercial sources to augment the data currently collected by the old and ailing Landsats 5 and 7.

Interior is requesting $968.5 million for the USGS for 2009, or about $38 million less than it received for 2008. The USGS’ Geography division, which is home to the agency’s Land Remote Sensing Program, would see its budget decline to $73.1 million next year, a drop of $4.6 million.